Meet The Luxury Alpaca Fashion Startup On A Mission To Help Support Bolivian Artisans
"We believe that having a consistent and coherent philosophy and mission is the most important thing for a brand... Care for the environment, the fair treatment of animals, the empowerment of women and a sustainable fashion spirit."
What happens when luxe fashion, traditional craftsmanship, pure Andean alpaca and fair-trade combine? Well, you'll have to read on to find out...
It's time to get your startup fix with Warayana: the new fair-trade fashion brand to watch in 2019.
Warayana prides themselves on these three ingredients: quality, passion and respect for their products and workers. Once you read their story, you'll see that it's these three things which set them apart and gives them that caring fashionista edge.
And it didn't just happen overnight. Hard graft, meticulous planning, in-depth knowledge of their workers and their materials, meant the team at Warayana were destined to start and build their brand on a good footing.
Read on for startup advice for new retail businesses wanting to get a head-start, interesting outlooks and where you can get your hands on quality clothing with a real story. Words Do The Talking meet Warayana.
Tell us about your brand WaraYana and what makes it unique?
WaraYana is a new and contemporary fashion brand. We work with exclusive fibres from the Andean region: Alpaca and Vicuña. These fibres are becoming very popular in the world of luxury because of their attractive features.
Our brand was born mainly with the goal of exporting high quality Bolivian products, demonstrating to the world that our people are capable of making exquisite pieces under the seal of fair trade whilst respecting the environment. If you acquire a WaraYana product, you are buying a garment made with exclusive fibres and handmade by our Bolivian artisans. That is what we consider to be a true luxury.
Also WaraYana personalises and customises its products, so our client gets a chance to choose different colours and types of alpaca fabrics, plus the opportunity to personalise their garments with their initials. We try to give a complete service from product creation to consumer purchase - ending with a happy customer.
Tell us more about your artisans and what impact they have on your brand
We had been looking for a long time for workshops that matched our philosophy: care for the environment, the fair treatment of animals, the empowerment of women and a sustainable fashion spirit.
Finding these workshops or projects has made us grow in many ways, it has made us proud to be working on projects that not only seek profit but also have a social commitment to our people. The majority of our artisans are women who work in self-managed workshops so they can work from their homes and at the same time raise their children. We believe this is an exceptional achievement.
Our tailors have generally inherited their skills and expertise from prior generations, they manage their own workshops, in which they also train and recruit young apprentices.
Why is 'slow & sustainable fashion' so important to your brand?
We feel positive about the fact that many more brands around the world think like us and sustainable fashion is becoming a bigger trend.
The overall fashion industry has been and still is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, due to its mass production and consumption. The exponential growth of the ready-to-wear industry after the post-war period has caused a significant increase in pollution. However, we can see a new generation that is interested in recovering the true essence of things, a slower and more sustainable fashion, the origin, the culture, the work, the detail, in short, the workers.
To manufacture our products, we could have lowered our costs by producing in other markets such as Asia or even Europe.
However, the reality is that we want to emphasise that the fibres we sell are Andean, they are born and they come from only one place on the planet (South America). The animals that we source our fibres from have been living in the same habitat for decades, with the same indigenous communities and in many cases, the sale of these fleeces has been for centuries the only source of income for the local communities.
It is important to highlight that these animals are eco-friendly animals, they graze eating only the fruits of the plants without tearing the roots.
To obtain alpaca fibre, the animals are sheared once or twice a year normally during the summer.
Vicuñas only produce 200 grams of fibre every three years and, in order to respect and preserve these animals and the environment, the same vicuña cannot be sheared more than once every three years.
What's been WaraYana's greatest achievement so far?
• Finding people who have trust in our project.
• Having entered the European market with a very good reception.
• Having received many positive comments from happy customers.
• Having not only sold a number of high quality products made of alpaca or vicuña, but also having contributed to the creation of more sources of employment in Bolivia.
What have been your biggest business hurdles so far?
Bolivia and Europe are very far away. One of our big hurdles is distance, courier fees and shipping times. Customs controls can often cause delays in our plans.
Any tips, dos and don'ts you would share with someone who is turning their business idea into a reality?
Perseverance and trust that what you are doing has a purpose, a path and a goal.
We use words in everyday life and via marketing techniques; how have the power of words helped tell your brand's story?
It is difficult to say since we are still in a learning stage in this area.
We believe that having a consistent and coherent philosophy and mission is the most important thing for a brand.
What's next for WaraYana?
Expand across Europe and continue to create sources of employment for our artisans. We do not seek to be a giant company at all costs; we seek success alongside distributors that share our philosophy.
Which product would you recommend to someone looking to buy an item from your collection?
For adults we would recommend an alpaca coat. An alpaca coat can last a lifetime, it is warm, almost waterproof and extremely soft and comfortable to wear.
Our coats are the most recommended garment for fall and winter. They will always make you look spectacular.
For children we are in love with the "Alpacaquita" (little Alpaca) jersey. It's for them that this project was born and those designs will always be a tribute to the happiness and gratitude of working for them.
If you want to find us visit our website: www.warayana.shop or visit us in our showroom in Notting Hill 176b Westbourne Grove, London W11 2RW.
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